Saturday, August 31, 2019

Pageant of Evolution (3), Earth's Evolution in 24 hours (#a)

Here’s my third Pageant of Evolution, Four Corners Free Press column, again I couldn’t avoid starting back at the beginning, but this time it feels like I’ve gotten the solid footing that was evading me previously.  I admit I don’t feel particularly pleased with the first and second, but I do like this third essay and look forward to seeing how well I manage to finish the story of our Earth’s Pageant of Evolution.
My next column will continue into the Metazoic and Cenozoic when Life started utilizing all the resources and potential that Earth had spent all those billions of years processing and developing.  The period that highlights how much environment and climate dictates how Life evolves and who thrives or dies.

In last month’s celebration of Earth’s Pageant of Evolution I touched on the interplay of tectonics, geochemistry and archaic life. The intimate love-making of Earth's geology and biology - to put it poetically rather than scientifically. 

Getting back to the science, scientists have learned about the why and how of various ocean bottom structures that provide the catalyst between geochemistry and biochemistry, by helping bind basic molecules into complex organic building blocks of life.

This month to convey the immensity of Deep Time I’m scaling down Earth’s 4.6 billion years to 24 hours. A billion years take 5 hours plus change, 3.2 million years tick by every minute. Our human story fits into Earth’s past 4-5 seconds. Imagine that. 

Friday, August 30, 2019

Diary 8/30/2019 - Life happens.

Life is what happens while you’re busy making plans.  This summer my blogging effort wound up being focused on trying to convey the pageant of Earth’s Evolution and offering a glimpse into the folds within folds of accumulating harmonic complexity flowing down the stream of time that is the evolutionary process.

July 1990

Personally it’s also been a summer of five solo road trips down to Phoenix via a route I hadn’t been on since the ‘80s.  Driving out of Cortez, Colorado on Hwy 160 past the Four Corners Monument, then south on Hwy 191 along the western edge of the Defiance Uplift, including visits to Canyon DeChelly, then on to I-40 and scooting over to Hwy 87, which rises into the wonderfully surprising Coconino National Forest and then down the ancient Mogollon Rim.

The Mogollon Rim is the edge of the Colorado Plateau and its a two thousand foot drop into what’s called the “Transition Zone” with it’s jumble of one time islands caught between the ultimate rock and a hard place.  Then out into the “Valley of the Sun” and the “Basin and Range” geologic province.  Geologically it’s a fascinating drive and going solo allowed me a slower pace than our usual rush to reach our destination.

Though the drive south tended to be a bit more rushed than the drive home.  You see, I had dates to keep with my infant grandson.  Unlike with my first two grandkids who’s stay at home mother also had plenty of extended family around, this little guy’s parents have full-time professional careers.  Being an old hand with babies I was drawn into helping out with the child care.

Then when it was discovered how well the little guy and I get along, I kept getting invited back when the unexpected forced mom, then dad, to take a couple trips and my no longer carpentering left me available.

If you know how much Life and Earth’s story fascinate me, you can imagine what interacting with and watching an infant evolving impacts my thoughts.  Meaning my mind has become increasingly distracted and cluttered from the blogging task at hand.  

August 2019

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Jeff Gee, Joanna Haigh - Earth's Magnetic Force Field - What a scientist sounds like

This posting is dedicated to conveying a fact based appreciation for our planet’s protective magnetic “force field” with lectures from: 
Geoscientist Jeff Gee - Exploring Extremes of Earth's Magnetic Field
Professor Joanna Haigh - The Sun and Climate

… along with some awesome data driven visualizations, narrative is a bit on the melodramatic side, but hey, that's what folks want:
Earth's Magnetism in HD - Discovery Channel
Magnetism - Defending Our Planet, Defining The Cosmos - NASA Multimedia Science
Origins of the Earth’s magnetic field - CEOAS - Oregon State

Magnetism - Defending Our Planet, Defining The Cosmos
NASA Multimedia ScienceApril 3, 2017

Friday, August 23, 2019

David Bercovici - Origin of Plate Tectonics - What a scientist sounds like.

One aspect of this blog is all about my own journey of discovery through knowledge acquired from the global community of scientists over the course of generations.  
I do have strong opinions that are based on how I've processed the information I've accumulated so far.  Within that frame of reference, it always seemed self-evidence that our moon's close proximity to Earth during the first billion years had to have a hand in starting plate tectonics on this planet.  
I could not understand why geoscientists never discussed that aspect when writing about origins of plate tectonics.  It simply didn't make sense to me.
But, recently listening to scientists such as David Bercovici, I've come to appreciate many aspects of that situation I had no clue of.  Not that I've had any particular insights, but I have gained a world of appreciation for why the moon's tidal influence on the start of plate tectonic isn’t near as obvious as I was imagining.
It seems to me a great example of allowing facts to dictate my opinion.  I appreciate I possess a fraction of the knowledge someone like Bercovici has accumulated - thus if his words reveal flaws in my own thinking - it's my duty to understand him, not simply to dismiss him.  
As opposed to the agenda driven character, who is so self-certain that he allows his under-educated mind to conjure (and then believe) all sorts of fantastical under-informed rationalizations in order to dismiss the expert's knowledge.  
See, truth doesn't matter to the self-certain - pushing agenda over substance is their priority.
Whereas in serious science honestly acquiring evidence that helps us gain better understanding IS the goal - while ultimate certainty is unattainable.

Be forewarned the following is a talk given to his peers, so it's a peek into how scientists speak with each other, rather than the crisp public talks I usually like sharing.
Professor David Bercovici Ph.D.
On the Origin of Plate Tectonics

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Caroline Beghein - Tectonics to Deep Earth Dynamics - What a scientist sounds like

Here Caroline Beghein Ph.D. gives a very nice general introduction to plate tectonics.

From Plate Tectonics to Deep Earth Dynamics
Published on Sep 2, 2016

A Seismological Journey Inside the Earth.
2016 IRIS/SSA Distinguished Lecturer 
Caroline Beghein Ph.D., U.C. Los Angeles

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Jason Morgan - history of plate tectonics - What a scientist sounds like

The Changing Landscape of Plate Tectonics
Geophysicist W. Jason Morgan
This talk gives a historical account of the developing science of plate tectonics, given by Geophysicist William Jason Morgan.
Although I'll admit I chose to include it as much for the introduction as for the interesting talk that follows.  You see, while most introductions have me pushing fast-forward, once in a while I’m stopped by something that resonates and I’ll pay attention.  The introduction to this video is an example.  Professor Jerry Mitrovica* delivers an enjoyable listen, while beautifully illustrating what a serious scientist is all about.
* Incidentally, he gives a great lecture in his own right: 
Jerry Mitrovica exemplifies the ‘scientific way’ - the passionate curiosity driven need to learn about our planet, based on honestly assessing all evidence and facts at hand, while striving to attain better information for yet more accurate understanding, always moving forward.
When listening to Mitrovica please notice his willingness to search out and examine the shortcomings and mistakes in his own, thinking, work and conclusions.  His respect for colleagues, even his “competitors” along with a respect for their substantive work - It’s because honestly learning about our planet as accurately as possible is the cornerstone to their work and careers.  (Why isn’t that aspect being loudly enunciated by writers?)

Monday, August 19, 2019

Plate Tectonics and Life - What Scientists Sound Like

Although I can't find quite the right video for this section, I do have a couple of excellent presentations by scientists to their colleagues.  It's more nitty-gritty than I usual share over here, but it is on the topic - along with being more wonderful examples of What Serious Scientists Sound Like.

I've also included three articles touching:
video - Origins: Earth’s Journey Toward Life - Carnegie Science
Plate tectonics may have driven the evolution of life on Earth
   Ross Large, John Long, July 15, 2015
Linking the rise of atmospheric oxygen to growth in the continental phosphorus inventory  -  Cox et al.  2018
Did Plate Tectonics Set the Stage for Life on Earth?
   Lisa Kaspin-Powell - Jun 7, 2018
video - Life with and Life without Plate Tectonics, AGU 2014

Recall geophysicist William Jason Morgan words:

Origins: Earth’s Journey Toward Life
Carnegie SciencePublished on Jan 7, 2019

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Paul Hoffman - Snowball Earth explained - What a scientist sounds like.

The second and third paragraphs in my second Pageant of Evolution column seem too discombobulated in hindsight.  It’s a great example of writing before having one's proverbial ducks in a row.  But hey, I was distracted and rushed and we learn from our mistakes.

In any event, that’s why I chose Paul F. Hoffman to feature in this “What a scientist sounds like” - Tectonic and Sedimentary Field Geologist in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University, currently he is their Sturgis Hooper Professor Emeritus

His honors go back to 1977 and his published work on Snowball Earth goes back to 1998.  He is considered a foremost expert in Snowball Earth research and he gave a wonderful series of lectures for Earth Dynamics Research Group at Curtin University of Technology in 2016.  

Unless you’re a serious student or scientist much of this will be over your head, however much won’t be!  The outlines are easy to follow, and the complexities are fascinating to hear about, even if the nuances are beyond our comprehension.  At least one becomes aware of unimagined complexities, along with unimagined levels of scientific understanding.

I’m starting by embedding a shorter simpler overview that he gave at Mount Royal University, as the 2018 keynote speaker for the Faculty of Science and Technology Research Days.  Then I share links and poster highlights of his more extensive Earth Dynamics Research Group lectures, enjoy.

Also, check out this treasure trove:

(click on image for clearer view)

Paul Hoffman
Curtin University of Technology

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Pageant of Evolution (2), geological rearranging.

Here's my second Pageant of Evolution column, of course as I've said before I never finish projects I simply meet deadlines.  So it is that the version I'm sharing has gone through some more edits since the one that appeared at the Four Corners Free Press.  I'll be following this post with more highlighted video lectures by real sciences who will supply real substance behind this enthusiast's overview of Earth's magnificent Evolution.

(click image for better view)

Last month’s Four Corners Free Press column left off with Earth looking like a snowball roughly seven hundred million years ago.  In fact, there were a number of snowball epochs in Earth’s past, though most didn’t actually have glaciers growing all the way to the equator.  For this column those specifics make little difference since my point is mainly to introduce folks to the marvelous dynamics of Earth’s Evolution.  More exacting details are easy to find on the internet.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Diary August 11, 2019 - Defeated? What's that mean?

I received the following comment in response to my "Diary July 31, 2019" which was an introduction of sorts to why I've dedicated this month to Earth's Pageant of Evolution.  Since it's clear that “Defeat” is something we rationalists will be forced to deal with more and more, I’ve decided to offer this challenging response as a stand alone post.  

Thanks, it's nice to know some can relate to what I'm trying to write about. 

"Defeated" is such an ugly word.  How about righteously pissed off, heartbreakingly disappointed, fatalistic resignation as I watch the tipping points sneak past an apathetic willfully ignorant public thanks to ruthlessly dishonest propaganda media empires.  Sure, I’ve felt profound defeats that have floored me, but if you're alive you can’t stay on the floor for long.

You know in our own life's delicate dance we're required to be 'Present' to something - what will it be?  I can't watch Trump news, too much 'crazy making' going on, the normalization of their unAmerican dysfunctionality and their hideous disconnect from physical reality is too much.  Add to that continued Democratic Party ineptness, massive voter disinterest and it's simply horrifying for me to keep watching since it's beyond my ability to do anything about - when so few actually care or are aware.  All that's left for me is to continue striving to better enunciate rational fundamental principles and to continue living my life with dignity best I can.

My inner spirit is alive and well - supported by appreciation for down to Earth reality along with my place in the flow of Evolution, (rather than dependence on self-delusion and angry insecurity).  I've lived a life that the young me would be as proud of as the old me is.  No horror can take that away.  Besides, I'm aware that I'm a passionate empathetic guy and I learned long ago getting my heart kicked in and torn up now and then, is part of living an engaged life, then we get up, dust off and cowboy up.  

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Michael Russell - Emergence, serpentinization engine, electron exchange - What a scientist sounds like.

If you enjoyed Robert Hazen and Jack Szostak, then you’ll want to add Michael Russell since his talks compliments what Dr. Szostak was explaining.  Of course, what you get out of these lectures is proportional to how well you already know the topic.  That said, any intelligent curious person can still get plenty of fascinating insights and better appreciation for the complexities scientists have come to understand by listening and then doing a little side research for themselves.  It's not like the fundamentals themselves are that difficult, it is the details that get impossibly complex and difficult to grasp.

The key is an honest curiosity to become aware of the world we live in.

With that I present another another couple lectures about the physics of Life’s folds within folds of cumulative harmonic complexity flowing down the cascade of time.  Before getting to my next essay.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Jack Szostak - Origins, geochemistry to biochemistry - What a scientist sounds like.

Whereas Robert Hazen went after the origins problem from a mineralogist's perspective, Professor of chemistry and chemical biology, the 2009 Nobel Prize laureate Jack Szostak goes at it from his expertise, the biologist’s perspective.  
Both have found that they needed to combine their expertise and to reach out to other branches of science in order to constructively tackle the problem of understanding the transition from geochemistry to biochemistry and then to full blown life as we know it.
He is another excellent public speaker so his talks are a joy to listen to.  Here I share a collection of seven informative videos of his talks along with some bio information.

Jack Szostak: The Early Earth and the Origins of Cellular Life

MoleCluesTVPublished on May 16, 2019  (32:11 min.)

Lecture by Dr Jack Szostak, 2009 Nobel laureate in Physiology or Medicine, at the Molecular Frontiers Symposium "Planet Earth: A Scientific Journey", at Stockholm University May 9-10, 2019.

The Szostak Lab

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Robert Hazen - Origins, mineral evolution - What a scientist sounds like.

In order to get a change of scenery I spent the summer of 2006 working north of Boulder and living in a Teepee.  My transportation was mainly my bike and Longmont was a better destination than crowded Boulder.  It also sported a very nice library with a big non-fiction audio book collection, which was very exciting considering I’d long run out of decent nonfictions at my home town fiction loving library.  Browsing through their rows of “The Great Courses” series, I spied something new "Origins of Life."

Origins of Life
Professor Robert M. Hazen, Ph.D.
George Mason University
The Great - course 1515

With a title like that, I couldn’t say no.  It turned out to deliver one astounding surprise after another, along with a few revelations to boot.  I needed to listened a second time before returning, despite its 12 hour length.  Since then I've made a point of listening to pretty near every YouTube lecture featuring him and there are many. 

I also liked that this new understanding also vindicates my own reflexive disgust at having read some serious scientists assume that for the first few billions of years nothing happened on Earth.  It seemed a ridiculous notion to me and so it was.  Just like junk DNA, or wasted brain matter, nonsense - it was simply that we hadn’t learned enough to know what it was doing yet.  Seems that conceit and short sightedness has been a predominate feature in human thinking going way back.

The beauty of science is that truth and honesty and evidence is valued - authoritative facts win in the end.  This is because scientists belong to a community of dedicated, competitive, informed, skeptical individuals who buy into the basic premise that: We Need Each Other To Keep Ourselves Honest.  
Also they work under a set of rules, that puts honest observation at the top of the list, because constructively learning about our planet, along with her ways and means, is the goal.  A place where geophysical facts rule over personal opinion and preferences. 

According to Neal deGrasse Tyson this is how science operates:
(1) Question authority. No idea is true just because someone says so, including me. 
(2) Think for yourself. Question yourself. Don't believe anything just because you want to. Believing something doesn't make it so. 
(3) Test ideas by the evidence gained from observation and experiment. If a favorite idea fails a well-designed test, it's wrong. Get over it. 
(4) Follow the evidence wherever it leads. If you have no evidence, reserve judgment. 
And perhaps the most important rule of all...
(5) Remember: you could be wrong. Even the best scientists have been wrong about some things. Newton, Einstein, and every other great scientist in history -- they all made mistakes. Of course they did. They were human. 
Science is a way to keep from fooling ourselves, and each other.
{Mistakes are learning opportunities !}

Friday, August 2, 2019

Pageant of Evolution (1), the warm up.

(click for better view)

A couple month's ago I was feeling guilty for not submitted anything to the Four Corners Free Press in a while.  Also I'd been all involved in that filthy downer job of sorting through Jim Steele's "What's Natural?" deceptions and I needed something positive.

So, with days to go before deadline, I decided to write about the Pageant of Evolution.  I cheated by rewriting the evolution pitch off this blog.  I though it would be a cinch since I think about Evolution a lot anyways.

During those days (and since) I tapped into a wonderful vain of scientific lectures on YouTube regarding latest findings in "origins" research, as well as the Evolution process in general to help refresh my memory and to get my creative juices flowing.

Instead I wound up chagrined and annoyed by how out of date I'd allowed myself to get.  But as they say, the project is never finished you only meet deadlines.  So even as I was summiting this column, I knew I had to give it another shot.  I'm sharing this Pageant of Evolution #1 because I want to explore my own learning process and the development, dare I say evolution, of my understanding.  Sharing the agony of defeat, along with the joy of victory and constructive learning.

Besides being chagrined, I was thinking of times I'd referred to myself as a student of climate science and now feeling mighty silly about that conceit.  I may be a genuine "Student of Life" but I'm no scholar, no "Student" - I come to realize, to appreciate, that I'm a self-taught "Enthusiast," a lover, a poet, Earth and life are a stage and experiencing it is my game - with science being my clearest path to better understanding my observations.

A real student of science possesses a discipline, a focus and sticktoitiveness I can't muster.  I'm like a happy puppy dog were every new scent is a fascinating adventure.  Though at 64, a creakier puppy for sure, oh but what a collection of experiences and learning.